Publication of Welsh cabinet minutes “shatters taboo”

Today’s publication of the Welsh Cabinet minutes, just 6 weeks after the cabinet meeting took place, was welcomed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The Campaign’s director Maurice Frankel said the initiative “shatters the taboo that revealing cabinet proceedings before 30 years have passed will fatally undermine decision-making. The minutes reveal business-like, practical and sometimes mundane discussions and suggest that the traditional secrecy in this area may have more to do with protecting mystique than real secrets or highly sensitive discussions”.

The Campaign said the open attitude adopted by Wales’s First Secretary, Rhodri Morgan, contrasted with the excessive secrecy written into the current Freedom of Information Bill. All information relating to policy formulation, even the facts on which decisions are based, can be withheld under the bill. “The Welsh initiative shows that much greater openness about decision-making is feasible; that the public can be told what is going on without bringing the process of government to its knees,”Mr Frankel said.

The minutes of the Welsh cabinet meeting of March 13 2000 are published on the Internet today atwww.assembly.wales.gov.uk/cabinet/minutes/130300.html. These are the first minutes to be published under a new policy introduced by Rhodri Morgan shortly after becoming First Secretary. According to the Assembly, “the minutes are published unedited, except for any references to information received in confidence from individuals, companies, the UK and foreign governments and the other devolved administrations.”

The Freedom of Information Bill has completed its Commons stages and had its second reading in the Lords before Easter. Peers from all parties expressed dissatisfaction with the limited rights provided by the bill, and amendments to improve the bill seem likely to be carried.

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